One of the comments that is most often hurled at people like us is that we don’t understand just how valuable things like clubhouse chemistry, leadership, and the like are. Even as the Mariners dissolved into a pool of awfulness last year, the cries from the media and the team itself were that a lack of chemistry and leadership, not a lack of talent, was the true culprit. After all, we’re told, major league managers and GMs understand how valuable this chemistry/leadership dynamic is. Because they value it, so should we.
Except, they don’t. They say they do, but they don’t. As Tango points out, the Cliff Floyd signing from last week is a perfect example of their actions belying their words.
Cliff Floyd, widely accepted as a veteran clubhouse leader and good influence on young players, signed for $750,000 for 2009. The league minimum is $400,000. The Padres paid $350,000 more than the minimum for a bench player because he was a good leader, a good clubhouse influence, and will theoretically improve their team chemistry. That’s what the Padres valued Floyd’s off-the-field stuff at – $350,000.
It’s not just Floyd, either. Trot Nixon, who was absolutely beloved in the Red Sox clubhouse during his prime, signed a minor league contract with the Brewers. No guaranteed money for this veteran clubhouse leader. The Mariners, of course, signed Mike Sweeney to a minor league deal – Sweeney is renowned as such a good person that the Royals named an award after him. No guaranteed money for this veteran clubhouse leader.
You could do this all day – Tony Clark is often well spoke of for his mentoring of young players. $800,000 on a one year deal. David Eckstein, notable grit master and guy who gets the most out of his mediocre physical abilities – $850,000 on a one year deal. Brad Ausmus, great handler of pitchers and gamecaller – $1 million for one year.
The going rate for veteran leadership and clubhouse presence is somewhere between $0 and $500,000. That’s the premium that teams are willing to pay for a guy with highly respected intangibles.
MLB teams can talk up chemistry and leadership all they want. When the time comes to put their money where their mouth is, they buy talent, not intangibles.
The only people who really believe in the extreme positive value of these off the field things are baseball writers. You know, the ones who have a vested interest in cultivating positive relationships with these people off the field. The off the field stuff matters to them and no one else.